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Black Earth Ensemble


Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble (BEE) is a musical celebration of the African American cultural legacy. Founded and directed in 1998 by creative flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell, BEE has performed in festivals and art venues throughout Europe, Canada and throughout the U.S.  BEE’s music embraces the ancient past and paints visions of a positive future. The music is the weaving of swing, blues, avante garde jazz, bebop, African rhythms, Eastern modes and Western classical sounds. The name “Black Earth” was chosen to honor the feminine source that our lives depend on—Mother Earth.  The purpose of Black Earth Ensemble is to inspire the human spirit with thought-provoking beauty and to present a positive, healthy and culturally aware image of African Americans.   As a woman-directed, co-ed, multi-generational group, it touches a range of emotional spaces rarely expressed in a “jazz” setting.  Black Earth's message is intended for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.  BEE has five critically acclaimed CDs:  Vision Quest (Dreamtime), Afrika Rising (Dreamtime), Hope, Future and Destiny (Dreamtime), Black Unstoppable (Delmark) and Xenogenesis Suite(Delmark).

Black Earth Ensemble Projects

Black Unstoppable

Black Unstoppable features a diverse collection of exciting songs that touch all sides of Great Black Music. The music of Black Earth's upcoming album with Delmark Records is avant-garde jazz dipped in blues, seasoned with R&B and simmering with soul. The group ranges in size from a quartet to a nonet. Ideal instrumentation for the Black Unstoppable Project is an octet with flute (Nicole Mitchell), vocals (Ugochi), tenor sax (David Boykin), trumpet (David Young), cello (Tomeka Reid), guitar (Jeff Parker), bass (Josh Abrams) and drums (Marcus Evans).  


Nicole Mitchell’s suite Xenogenesis is inspired by the Afrofuturist science fiction writer Octavia Butler.  Commissioned by Chamber Music America with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, Mitchell composed a suite that evokes journey into the horrific, yet fascinating unknown. Xenogenesis Suite premiered at the Vision Festival XII in New York in 2007.  Xenogenesis Project has been recorded on Firehouse 12 Records with the following personnel:   flute (Nicole Mitchell), voice (Mankwe Ndosi), tenor sax (David Boykin), trumpet (David Young), cello (Tomeka Reid), piano (Justin Dillard), bass (Josh Abrams), drums (Marcus Evans), percussion (Avreeayl Ra). 

Intergalactic Beings

Intergalactic Beings takes Mitchell's connection to science fiction and Octavia Butler a step forward.  Commissioned by Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Xenogenesis II: Intergalactic Beings, highlights an emotional journey of transformation.  Through music,Intergalactic Beings will express the perspective of intelligent extraterrestrials that look with horror at our human contradictions and yet have their own.   It will also embody the emotions of a lone woman in this strange place far from Earth, who expresses both resistance and resilience in her transformation.  Intergalactic Beings premiered April 2010.

Mother Nature Suite

Mother Nature Suite features luminary and ultra-rhythmical harpist, Edmar Castenada and was written to "inspire us to realign with our wondrous Earth, whom we depend on for our very lives. Then the healing can begin."  Mother Nature Suite premiered with Black Earth Ensemble and Casteneda at the Chicago Jazz Festival 2010.

Honoring Grace:  Michelle Obama was written in honor of Michelle Obama a Chicagoan of international merit.  The music illustrates overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the historical events of Obama's election in 2008. Celebrating the jazz legacy with tinges of R&B, Honoring Grace features vocalists Ugochi and Khari Lemuel. 

Black Earth Orchestra Projects

Alice Coltrane Tribute:  Where Many Paths Meet the Sea is a suite of compositions inspired by the life and music of composer/instrumentalist Alice Coltrane, commissioned by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and premiered August 9, 2007.  Written for large improvising ensemble, the work featured pianist Myra Melford and harpist Maia (Sonjia Hubert-Harper).

Arc of O: for Chamber Orchestra, Improvisers and Electronics is one of Mitchell's most expansive and experimental projects, originally written for twenty musicians.  Originally commissioned by the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2010, the work had a European premiere at the Made in Chicago Festival in Poznan, Poland, featuring the An_Arche NewMusic Ensemble and improvisers David Boykin, Renee Baker, Mwata Bowden and Nicole Mitchell.  The Poznan recording of Arc of O was released by Rogue Art Records in June 2012. 

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